Sindika Dokolo, Who Sought Return of African Art, Dies at 48

Sindika Dokolo, one of Africa’s foremost collectors of contemporary art and the husband of Angolan billionaire Isabel dos Santos, has died. He was 48.

Dokolo died in Dubai on Thursday, Patrick Muyaya, a friend and member of Parliament of the Democratic Republic of Congo, said by text message. Angolan media reported he was killed in a diving accident.

Dokolo had been under investigation in Angola and elsewhere for his business practices and those of his wife, Isabel, whose father, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, served as president of Angola for nearly forty years. Dokolo amassed more than 5,000 works of contemporary African artists, including William Kentridge and Wangechi Mutu, and was seen as a leader in the movement to bring back African art and artifacts to museums on the continent.

Last year, his foundation drew attention to his campaign to repatriate African art with an advertisement on the NASDAQ electronic billboard in Times Square in New York City.

Dokolo’s foundation didn’t immediately respond to messages requesting comment. Isabel dos Santos published a photo of the couple on her Twitter account Thursday. She didn’t respond to a message seeking comment.

Dokolo was born in 1972 in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa. His late father, Augustin, was a wealthy banker who passed his love of art on to Sindika, according to the family’s website. He started an art foundation a year after marrying Isabel in 2002. ARTnews last year named Dokolo one of the world’s 50 most important collectors to watch.

The couple faced investigations after Isabel’s father stepped down in 2017 and his successor, President Joao Lourenco, embarked on an anti-corruption campaign. In 2019, an Angolan court placed a freezing order on the Angolan assets of Dokolo, Isabel and one of their executives. The nation’s Attorney General accused them of transactions with state-owned companies that caused the government to incur losses of $1.14 billion.

The scrutiny increased in January after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the Platform to Protect Whistle-blowers in Africa reported on tens of thousands of leaked financial documents related to the couple’s businesses.

Dokolo and Isabel denied any allegations of wrongdoing, saying the government targeted them for political reasons.

Dokolo was considering several investments in Congo, including a gold smelter in the restive eastern part of the country, until corruption investigations in Angola derailed his plans, he told Bloomberg in August.

Amid the controversy, African art remained Dokolo’s passion.

“African art is our history, our identity, our dignity,” he said in an Instagram post last year.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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